FORMER LEADERS’ BENCH: Ambassador Iddi recollects his abrupt debut into politics

…Shocked to be appointed 2nd VP, CCM deputy SG in Isles

… He never thought of politics at his retirement

RESTFUL retirement at his welcoming Fuoni and Kama homes is all that Ambassador Seif Ali Iddi had envisioned as he packed up and left Beijing City in 1999 after a six-year ambassadorial stint in the world’s second economy.

Like any other retiree, Ambassador Iddi was looking forward to never-ending days of playing golf, travelling and playing with grandchildren.

Little did he know that heavy and long political career spanning over two decades was awaiting him.

A proud polygamist who believes that, “In our culture, you are hardly regarded a serious married man with one wife,” had never thought of politics at his retirement.

“I was indeed coerced into politics,” that is Ambassador Iddi’s description of his abrupt debut into politics.

From China, the 81-year-old diplomat was contracted to supervise the foreign department in Zanzibar from 1999 through 2000, when he started a new era of what he describes as forceful politics.

The former two-term Zanzibar Second Vice-President recalls his shock when the then Zanzibar President and the ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) Vice-Chairman, Zanzibar Dr Salmin Amour summoned him, demanding to appoint him CCM Deputy Secretary General, Zanzibar.

“That pronouncement came as a great shock to me; I wasn’t prepared for it but there is no way I could have refused to assume those responsibilities,” Ambassador Iddi says. He served in the post for three years and left in 2002 to pursue personal goals.

But, the three year-service in the party’s top executive office in the islands seems to have had played a great role in introducing him to politics and politicians. And, no wonder when the 2005 general elections came, Kitope constituents approached him, demanding his candidature in the parliamentary seat.

“Again, I was forced to stand for Kitope parliamentary seat, which I fortunately won,” Ambassador Iddi told Tanzania Standard (Newspapers) Limited’s (TSN) editorial team, which he hosted for an exclusive interview at his Kama cozy home in Unguja, recently.

Ambassador Iddi defended his parliamentary seat in the 2010 general elections in which Zanzibaris elected Dr Ali Mohamed Shein, the seventh phase president of the islands. And, Ambassador Iddi received another surprise.

“I was on my way to Dodoma to take oath as the second term Kitope Member of Parliament when I received a call from State House,” he recalls, “I was shocked because I had no idea of what was going on.”

At Vuga-based State House, Ambassador Iddi was received by President Shein and introduced to an appointment proposal. Dr Shein wanted him as the third in the country’s hierarchy of command.  “I asked how I could be the Second Vice-President because I was not a member of the House of Representatives,” Ambassador Iddi recalls, adding: “But, the president just told me: ‘that is none of your business.”

So, President Shein appointed Ambassador Iddi to the House of Representatives and Second Vice-President. “I was both Member of Parliament; Member of the House of Representatives and Second Vice-President…it was a great honour, indeed.”

He appreciates the generous support he received from the first Vice-President, the late Seif Sharif Hamad, saying: “He made my tasks easy and enjoyable.”

In the 2015 general elections, Ambassador Iddi forfeited the parliamentary seat and instead stood for the House of Representatives seat to relieve the President of the appointment hassles, “…in case he wished to continue with me.” He won the Kitope seat and Dr Shein retained him to their retirement in 2020.

Born in North Unguja region’s North B District at Mgambo Village on February 23, 1942, the trained teacher went to Kinyasini Primary School for his primary education before joining Beit el Ras Secondary School for secondary education.

“We had few schools and competition was stiff; I remember only three of us (from Kinyasini Primary) managed to make it to the next level,” he says.

After his Form Four national examinations, Ambassador Iddi passed to join Nkrumah College where he successfully trained in education at diploma level. He was then returned to his former primary school as a teacher before being assigned another responsibility to establish Nungwi Primary School in 1965.

Two years later, Ambassador Iddi was transferred from the teaching profession to foreign affairs and that was the beginning of his blossoming diplomatic career. He was posted to Cairo, Egypt in 1968 as foreign service officer as his first post in diplomatic mission.

During his over three decades of diplomatic duties, Ambassador Iddi has worked in various countries, with two phases in China. He first worked as Counsellor and head of Chancery in Tanzanian Embassy in China in 1976 through 1980 before returning as full Ambassador in 1993 through 1999.

He was also Ambassador in the Netherlands in 1983 through 1993. In Kenya he served as deputy High Commissioner and Head of Chancery in 1984 through 1989.



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